Special Features (SFs) are collections of papers on a specific research theme. For example, here at Journal of Animal Ecology we have had recent SFs on movement ecology and metabolic currencies and constraints, as well as a cross-journal British Ecological Society SF on demography. Recently, the senior editors of JAE met to discuss the role of SFs in our journal and how we could shake things up a little. Continue reading
Both the British Ecological Society and Journal of Animal Ecology have long been champions of research by early career ecologists. Indeed, there are many examples of early career researchers publishing their first papers from their dissertation in the pages of Journal of Animal Ecology. To continue, and hopefully enhance, that tradition, Journal of Animal Ecology is very happy to announce a new award targeted at early career researchers. With this award, we hope to inspire early career researchers working on any aspect of animal ecology to submit reviews or syntheses that might either summarize their dissertation work, provide new insights into classic areas of animal ecology, or might shed light on emerging fields in animal ecology.
Senior Editor, Journal of Animal Ecology
Turtles (and tortoises) are among the most outstanding and recognizable groups of animals on the planet. Despite being a relatively species poor clade (only 327 extant species), they are easily recognizable and adored by many (you’d be hard pressed to find any other reptile so heavily featured in children’s toys sections). Ever since the Triassic period, roughly 220 million years ago, they have been a constant and familiar aspect of the earth’s vertebrate fauna, found on all continents barring frigid Antarctica, and easily distinguishable by their unique trait – the bony shell, a derivative of the rib cage that encompasses their entire body and provides them with uncanny protection. At present, however, they are also among the most endangered taxa on Earth, with more than half of extant species threatened with extinction .
At the BES Annual Meeting 2015 in Edinburgh, a lively debate was held on the future of data archiving. The debate was recorded and the video can be viewed here.
The British Ecology Society (BES) has been mandating the archiving of data for all papers published in its journals since January 2014, so with the mandate having been in place for over 2 years this was a good opportunity to take stock of the impacts and look to the future. While it is recognised that data archiving presents both financial and time costs to researchers, the benefits of data preservation and validation of results help to advance science. The aim of the debate was to provide the opportunity for researchers to debate the pros and cons of data archiving in an open format. Continue reading
Most South Africans may have never noticed one of the largest forest raptors breeding in the city of Cape Town – the black sparrowhawk . However a new research project from the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology has hopefully changed this, and is shedding light on interesting aspects of the ecology of this species. Continue reading
This post is a press release from the authors of Journal of Animal Ecology paper “Predator swamping reduces predation risk during nocturnal migration of juvenile salmon in a high-mortality landscape” by Nathan B. Furey et al. Press release issued by The University of British Colombia
Using tags surgically implanted into thousands of juvenile salmon, University of British Colombia researchers have discovered that many fish die within the first few days of migration from their birthplace to the ocean. Continue reading
This blog post is a press release from the authors of Journal of Animal Ecology paper “Top predators negate the effect of mesopredators on prey physiology” by Maria M. Palacios et al. Press release issued by by James Cook University & ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral reef Studies
Scientists have discovered that the presence of large fish predators can reduce stress on baby fish.
The researchers – from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University and the University of Glasgow- have found that physiological stress on baby fish can be reduced by more than a third if large predatory fish are around to scare off smaller, hungry predators, known as mesopredators. Continue reading
In wintertime, it’s often getting dark in Princeton by the time I head home from the office to scrounge up some dinner. Along the half-mile path, I regularly walk or bike within few meters of the local herd of white-tailed deer. There are at least five or six animals that circulate among the tiny patches of trees and streams at the south end of campus. The university deer are just a fraction of the estimated 450-500 that roam the 16 km2 town of Princeton. That’s almost 40 deer per km2, well above the state of New Jersey’s recommended 20-25 per km2. Indeed, much of the northeast U.S. is forced to deal with dense, growing deer populations thanks to the removal of wolves, forest recovery over the last century following the westward shift of American agriculture, and a suburbanization-associated decline in hunting.
All these extra ungulates come with costs. For one, Princeton has paid hundreds-of-thousands of dollars between 2001 and 2015 to professional sharpshooters who controversially culled over 2700 deer from the population. However, hunting costs pale in comparison to those of the 300-plus deer-vehicle collisions that occurred each year in Princeton before the hunts were organized! Continue reading
Journal of Animal Ecology is pleased to welcome Sandra Bouwhuis (Institute of Avian Research, Germany), Anna Eklöf (Linköping University, Sweden) and Elisa Thebault (Université Pierre et Marie Curie, France) to the board of Associate Editors. They have all joined on a three-year term and you can find out more about them below. Continue reading
This blog post is a press release from the authors of Journal of Animal Ecology paper “Host and parasite thermal acclimation responses depend on the stage of infection” by Karie A. Altman et al. Press release issued by Oakland University
While climate change is often associated with global warming trends, it is also believed to influence patterns of temperature variability, with greater and more frequent shifts in temperature from one day to the next. Those temperature shifts could change the way certain species interact with each other. Continue reading
This blog post is a press release from the authors of Journal of Animal Ecology paper “Evidence of the phenotypic expression of a lethal recessive allele under inbreeding in a wild population of conservation concern” by Amanda E. Trask et al. Press release issued by University of Aberdeen
The last remaining Scottish populations of the rare red-billed chough are being affected by a genetic mutation causing lethal blindness, a new study from the University of Aberdeen and the Scottish Chough Study Group and funded by NERC and Scottish Natural Heritage has shown.
Blindness was first observed in a chough chick in 1998 and small numbers of blind chicks have occurred in most years subsequently. Continue reading
On this blog in October 2014, Senior Editor, Tim Coulson presented an argument for solving the sex ratio problem in scientific academia. He proposed that we should mandate that universities and institutes appoint equal numbers of men and women at each professional level from faculty positions though to full professors. Whilst the skewed sex ratio in academia has been long recognised and discussed, there is another bias much closer to home that has received significantly less attention: the male-bias on many science journal editorial boards. To coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8th, I thought it would be useful to highlight this important issue.
Back in 2014, just 13% of Journal of Animal Ecology Associate Editors were female, and none of our Senior Editors were. Whilst sex ratios on other ecology journals were generally much better than this, none of them were anywhere near to sex ratio parity. So, why was this and what have we done to try to remedy this?
Journal of Animal Ecology has four senior editors, three of whom (Ben Sheldon, Jean-Michel Gaillard and Nate Sanders) have been appointed in the last 2-3 years. During this period, we strongly encouraged women to apply, but we received only a small handful of applications from women. Did we do enough to encourage experienced women to apply? Evidently not. Each of the Senior Editors involved in the shortlisting processes did informally encourage good candidates to apply – both female and male – and all of our Associate Editors at the time were also encouraged to apply. In addition, the advertisements for the positions, specifically suggested that we wanted applicants who would add to the ‘diversity’ of the Senior Editor board.
So what can we do to address this issue? We could pledge to always interview at least one female applicant, regardless of where they rank overall on our shortlist (a sort of female Rooney Rule). But based on previous pools of applicants, I am sceptical as to whether this would be of help in the ultimate goal of recruiting female Senior Editors. A different approach is required. Perhaps the solution to our Senior Editor problem is to appoint more female Associate Editors, in the hope that it will promote a stronger pipeline to the senior positions.
Correcting the male-bias of the AE board is a laudable goal in itself, of course, and for the last 2-3 years we have been taking positive action to appoint more female AEs. This is not to say that we have exclusively appointed only women, but we have followed a policy of first exhaustively considering a pool of potential female candidates. In so doing, we have improved the sex ratio from 13% in 2014 to 36% in March 2016. This has been a relatively easy process, but has not been without issues. From personal experience, I have found that when we approach suitable male candidates for AE positions, the first response is generally very positive and mostly they accept without further discussion. In contrast, female candidates are much more likely to either decline immediately due to other commitments (this is especially true of non-tenured professors in the US), or to request further information about the role and the time commitment involved. Of course the latter is a very sensible approach and perhaps just reflects a difference between the sexes in common sense!
It is my hope to achieve equality on the AE board in the not too distant future. Once we achieve this target, we hope that it can be maintained in the long term, but this will probably not happen without continued positive action, as the pool of suitable individuals (mostly experienced early-mid career faculty) is consistently male-biased.
To stimulate further discussion on these issues, I asked one of our Associate Editors, Sheena Cotter, to think about them from her personal perspective as an early-mid career female academic. Her response is below and will, I hope, encourage others to enter the discussion.
One final thought. Gender, of course, is not the only diversity issue academic journals face. I write this blog from the Universidade Federal de Viçosa in Brazil, where I have just given a presentation to staff and students on ‘How to Get Published’ from an Editor’s perspective. For my audience, an equally pressing issue is how we address the geographical and ethnic imbalance of the editorial board (and, indeed, of the papers we publish), which is still overwhelmingly in favour of white Europeans and North Americans. If we can simultaneously address all of these issues, we will be doing very well indeed.
Let us have your thoughts.
Ken Wilson, Senior Editor
A response from one of our female Associate Editors
When Ken told me that the editorial board of JAE had been just 13% female when he took over as Senior Editor, I wasn’t particularly surprised. The pool is smaller. The number of women in ecology is very close to parity at undergraduate, PhD and postdoctoral levels, but then starts to decline dramatically. To be approached to be an Associate Editor, a woman would have to have a certain level of experience, and by lecturer level there are already fewer females than males. I also suspect women may be less prominent than men at the same stage of their career. If the choice of who to approach is determined in part by who you are aware of in a certain field, then this may be driven by how much scientists promote themselves via networking at conferences, organising meetings and seminars, sitting on grant committees etc. It is likely that women with young families spend less time on these activities than men as they typically require time spent away from home.
There is also “unconscious bias” associated with gender. We are all susceptible to it, I don’t recall a single female lecturer when I was an undergraduate and I doubt I remarked upon it, because scientists were always men. I’m still sometimes surprised when an ambiguously named scientist turns out to be female, my default assumption is male. This may seem fairly harmless until you are in a position to recruit and you may inadvertently prefer a male candidate over an equally, or better, qualified female one. So to increase the percentage of female AEs you just have to identify suitable candidates and approach them, right? Well, apparently not, because it seems that women are more likely to say no. This was a surprise.
When I was approached to take on the role of Associate Editor for JAE, I was delighted and jumped at the chance. However, at that point I was a NERC fellow with minimal teaching duties and no children. The potential extra workload didn’t cross my mind. But many potential female candidates for AE will be trying to balance a heavy workload and a young family and may be loath to add to that burden. Before I had kids I couldn’t understand the claim that having children was the reason that women dropped out of academia, because most women don’t have children on their own, they have them with men, and presumably there are as many men with young families as there are women. So what’s going on? Of course, I don’t really know the answer, I can only talk from personal experience.
First, the physical act of carrying and then delivering a child (or two – I’m lucky enough to have twins…) is physically exhausting. I couldn’t work as hard while I was pregnant as I could beforehand. Second, it takes over your brain in a way that it doesn’t seem to for the father. Babies become real to women much earlier on in the process than they do for men. I spent so much of my time thinking and reading about pregnancy, the birth, new babies, what we’d need to buy, how our lives would change etc., that I really got hardly any work done at all. Once the baby is born, something happens to your brain, at least in the short term, and this is something that highly intelligent female colleagues have also experienced. I found it incredibly difficult to concentrate on science when my children were babies. I don’t think this really happens to men. They might still be very involved and do their fair share around the house and take their turn at night feeds (if possible) but I don’t think they experience the “brain melt”, and this takes a while to get over.
Now that my children are a bit older (2, 2 and 4), I think my brain functions just fine, but my priorities have definitely changed. I used to quite regularly stay late at work during the week and at the weekends, but now I always leave work by 5pm and only work in the evening on weekends if I absolutely have to. I am not prepared to miss the evening with my children during the week. At the weekend, I spend the day with my children and running around after 3 small ones from 6am to 7pm is pretty exhausting so working in the evening is a challenge. Shouldn’t this be true of men too? I’m sure it is true of many men, but I have also worked with several male colleagues at the same career stage as me, with young children, who regularly stay late at work. I’m not aware of any women who do this. So if I was asked to be an AE now would I jump at the chance? Of course I would, but I know what to expect; if I didn’t, given my massively increased workload since becoming a tenured lecturer and the increased priority of time with my children, if I didn’t know what to expect I’d certainly ask!
So how do we increase the number of female AEs? We approach suitably qualified female candidates and make it clear that the workload isn’t onerous and you can balance it by reducing the numbers of papers you accept to review. It is a prestigious position, increases your profile and looks good on your CV. It is vital to increase the visibility of female scientists as this can help to redress the unconscious association of “science” with “men” and increasing the pool of experienced female AEs will hopefully result in one of us applying to be a Senior Editor in the near future – watch out Ken!
Sheena Cotter, Associate Editor
Assessing variation in population abundance over time and across space is a long-standing goal of population ecologists. Up to now, two main approaches have been mostly used to identify the factors driving observed fluctuations in population abundance. First, a pattern-oriented approach, based on the monitoring of population size, involves the analysis of time series of counts. In the most recent applications, these analyses lead to partitioning observed changes in population growth into different contributing factors, like current or past population density, environmental conditions, or demographic stochasticity. Second, a process-oriented approach, based on the monitoring of demographic parameters, involves the construction of age- or stage-structured demographic models. The steady increase of case studies aiming to monitor known-aged recognizable animals over most of their lifespan, the availability of statistical methods allowing reliable estimates of demographic parameters to be obtained from field data, and the development of a powerful framework to build a large range of matrix population models have all led to this process-oriented approach becoming a standard tool of population ecologists. It has become the gold standard in the context of both the management of exploited populations and the conservation of endangered populations. However, analyses of detailed monitoring of individuals have also revealed the existence of marked individual differences in most life history traits studied so far, which have been mostly ignored until now when using population-scale demographic modelling. To account for such sources of within-population variation, a trait-based demographic approach is required. Nowadays, Integral Projection Models (IPMs) provide a way to obtain more realistic demographic models that encompass the association between demographic parameters and, for instance, phenotypic traits. In their most extended version, IPMs include the four biological functions that are necessary and sufficient to obtain the distribution of a given continuous trait in a population at a given time from the distribution of the same trait in the same population one time-step before. These functions are the survival function linking survival probability to the trait value, the recruitment function linking the number of recruits to the trait value, the growth function linking the trait value at time t+1 to the trait value at time t, and the inheritance function linking the trait value of the offspring to the trait value of the parents.
Following the British Ecological Society Symposium “Demography Beyond the Population” that was held in Sheffield about one year ago, four papers derived from this symposium have just been published in Journal of Animal Ecology as part of the British Ecological Society Cross Journal Special Feature: Demography Beyond the Population. From the analysis of the contents of these four papers it appears that a new, integrated demography, comes of age. Continue reading
This exciting collaborative and interdisciplinary special feature integrates novel lines of research in the vast field of demography that directly interact with other ecological and evolutionary disciplines.
The goal of the special feature is to highlight the interdisciplinary potential of demography and is further emphasised by the fact that the 21 articles are spread across all six journals of the British Ecological Society.
The goal of the Special Feature is to highlight to both demographers and non-demographers alike that there is much to be gained by linking demography to other disciplines and scales in ecology and evolution.
The Special Feature is based on a British Ecological Society symposium that was held in March 2015 and is the first time all six BES journals have collaborated to produce a joint special feature.
Journal of Animal Ecology has published 4 papers in the Special Feature:
In this paper Brooks et al. discus how the the strength of size as a proxy for past environments varies among vital rates. They quantified this using a novel method for understanding nonlinear relationships between responses and multicollinear predictors. This non-mechanistic model has the strength of being flexible enough to apply in data-limited situations and will be useful for identifying patterns and generating hypotheses.
Childs et al. present a data-driven framework that has the potential to facilitate greater insight into the nature of selection and its consequences in settings where focal traits vary over the lifetime through ontogeny, behavioural adaptation and phenotypic plasticity, as well as providing a potential bridge between theoretical and empirical studies of labile trait variation.
Epidemiological dynamics are shaped by and may in turn shape host demography. Here, Metcalf et al. extend statistically derived population models that explicitly account for variance in individual trajectories commonly used for plant and animal demography (Integral Projection Models) to capture the process of infection and propagate it across scales.
In this paper Plard et al. discuss how the influence of phenotypic variation on population dynamics is much higher in short-lived than in long-lived life-histories.
Assistant Editor, Journal of Animal Ecology
Today the paper that introduces the COMADRE Animal Matrix Database was published in Journal of Animal Ecology (Salguero-Gómez et al. 2016). This is an international effort in collaboration with ca. 10 other institutions. Our main goal was to replicate the impact that its sister database, the COMPADRE Plant Matrix Database (Salguero-Gómez et al. 2015) has had for plant ecology and evolution, but in the rich animal kingdom. Open access to the database itself can be gained from the COMADRE website.
It’s been another busy year at Journal of Animal Ecology, with more personnel changes and a few new initiatives. Here, we review some of these developments.
Papers and other media
Last year was another good year for the journal, with our Impact Factor remaining strong (4.504), ranking us 2nd out of 149 Zoology journals and 24th out of 143 Ecology journals. We continued to publish a number of successful Feature papers, including two How to.. papers, which continue to be extremely popular with our readers. The first, by Marie-Therese Puth, Markus Neuhäuser and Graeme D. Ruxton ‘On the variety of methods for calculating confidence intervals by bootstrapping’ and the second, by Damien Farine and Hal Whitehead, on ‘Constructing, conducting and interpreting animal social network analysis’. The latter was accompanied by a Virtual Issue on social network analysis, edited by Senior Editor Ben Sheldon. We also published a joint Virtual Issue with Journal of Applied Ecology and Methods in Ecology and Evolution on ‘Monitoring Wildlife’, featuring a selection of papers focusing on new methods and technologies for monitoring animals in their natural environments. To coincide with Open Access Week in October 2015, the five BES journals published a Virtual Issue of a selection of our OA papers. We also welcome unsolicited inquiries about potential Virtual Issues, whether you would like to see a particular topic covered, or whether you would like to edit one yourself. Similarly, we continue to welcome other special features including Synthesis, Review and How to.. papers, as well as topical Forum articles, so if you have any ideas, please let us know. Continue reading
This blog post is a press release of the Journal of Animal Ecology paper “Do animals exercise to keep fit?” by Lewis Halsey. Press release issued by The British Ecological Society
From joining a gym to taking up running, getting fit is a perennially popular new year’s resolution. We lead sedentary lifestyles and have easy access to energy-rich food, so we need to do voluntary exercise in order to keep fit. But what about other animals? Does a harbour porpoise, perhaps, need to put in extra training to ensure it can out-swim the dolphins that hunt it? Do animals exercise to keep fit?
It’s a question Dr Lewis Halsey of the University of Roehampton ponders in a new paper published today in the Journal. And the surprising answer is that we don’t know – because it is an issue that has gone almost entirely unstudied.
Animals need energy for growth and for locomotion, for attack and defence, and ultimately for reproduction. Yet animals can only obtain energy intermittently by foraging, storing some of it to use later, so the energetic ecology of an animal is fundamental to its success.
As an eco-physiologist, Halsey studies how animals expend energy, and how they adapt their behaviour and physiology to reduce their energy costs. On Sundays he goes running on Wimbledon Common.
“It made me think about my own biology and ecology. If I don’t exercise I get less fit, and am less able to do highly active things. So I wondered if some animals need to spend time and energy on voluntary exercise so that they are fit enough to out-run predators, win over mates or hunt down prey,” he explains.
But when he searched the literature, he found very few studies on the matter. “Researchers haven’t contemplated the idea that some animals may not do enough exercise during their general activities to be suitably fit for infrequent, high-intensity activities such as fleeing from predators. This needs to change,” says Halsey.
His new paper, which he hopes will encourage more research, outlines a set of concepts and the experiments that could be used to test them. But despite the lack of direct evidence, he points to some intriguing animal studies – from polar bears and penguins to giant pandas and barnacle geese – that suggest the answers might depend on an animal’s ecology.
According to Halsey: “We know that animals change their body condition in response to environmental conditions. Songbirds may put on some weight to survive the winter, but not too much if predators are around lest they become slow at escaping. And harbour porpoises, if regularly preyed on by dolphins, become much sleeker and carry less body fat so that they can out-swim their attackers.”
There are examples, too, of animals getting fatter when they have no predators to fear. This could explain why laboratory animals pile on the pounds (even though mice and rats will voluntarily run on wheels provided), and why giant pandas are so sedentary. During the day, giant pandas walk on average just 27m in an hour, but their presumed low aerobic fitness may not concern them because they no longer have predators to worry about.
Other species can maintain key aspects of their fitness without doing any voluntary exercise. In the polar regions, polar bears and penguins burn different tissues while fasting. During hibernation polar bears maintain crucial muscles so that they are still physically strong when they wake up. And while king penguins lose lots of muscle during their fasts on land, they seem to be able to get fit very quickly once they return to sea to fish.
Barnacle geese appear to be an extra special case of getting fit quickly. Some populations migrate 2,500km each autumn from Svalbard to Scotland, yet in the run up to migration they fly for only a few minutes each day – short bursts of flight that perhaps mirror the modern high-intensity training (HIT) regimes human athletes use to boost maximal aerobic capacity.
But according to Halsey: “Barnacle geese appear to get fit for certain predictable, planned events such as migration and yet miraculously seem able to do so with little or no voluntary exercise. So their bodies seem to trigger increased fitness from within – they get fit automatically when they need to – enough to make any human with a waning new year’s resolution to get fit very jealous.”
Finding out more about whether animals exercise to keep fit could have important scientific implications, challenging existing orthodoxy on animal ecology and behaviour, says Halsey.
“If animals are undertaking activities solely or partly to keep fit, this opens up a significant new facet to our understanding and interpretation of animal behaviour. No-one has previously observed animal behaviours and thought ‘this behaviour could be associated with keeping fit’,” he explains.
“On top of this, if indeed some animals have to ‘keep fit’ then the activity involved could burn important energy reserves, which feeds into fundamental ideas of optimality, where animals are expected to expend time and energy in ways that maximise their short- or long-term success.”
For more information contact Dr Lewis Halsey, University of Roehampton, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, mob: +44 (0)7779 784523
Dr Lewis Halsey (2016). ‘Do animals exercise to keep fit?’, doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.12488
In an epoch that will likely be remembered as “The Anthropocene”, wildlife is struggling to cope with anthropogenic habitat loss, fragmentation and disturbance. Ancient migration routes are being lost as we speak, and animal space use, behaviour and life history are undergoing rapid changes. “Villy” and his Norwegian wild reindeer pals are extremely wary of human activities, and may be considered emblematic of the challenge of human-wildlife coexistence.
We believe that science can help. The first step is to single out key ecological questions, and to identify the most appropriate technologies and methodologies to answer them. Proper analyses of GPS-tracking data have recently provided scientists with unprecedented opportunities to understand mechanisms underlying the observed patterns and processes of animal space use, and to make inferences and predictions needed to guide sustainable development and support human-wildlife coexistence. Continue reading
This post presents photos from the Special Feature” Stuck in motion? Reconnecting questions and tools in movement ecology ” from the current issue (85:1) of Journal of Animal Ecology
Taken from GPS collars equipped with wide-angle cameras, these amazing shots represent an unprecedented window into the lives of reindeer, one of the most ancient deer species in the world. Few people are aware that within the heart of Europe there still exist mass migrations as spectacular but more secretive than those in the Serengeti. Yet, reindeer migrations represent one of the most endangered phenomena in the Northern hemisphere. Wild reindeer are extremely wary of humans, who have been harvesting them since pre-historic times using large-scale pitfall systems. Their anti-predator strategy consists of aggregating in large herds roaming across vast mountain plateau in southern Norway, and avoiding human activities. Following the industrial revolution, the development of anthropogenic infrastructures has therefore led to the fragmentation of the last remaining wild mountain reindeer population into 23 virtually isolated sub-populations, and has hampered/blocked migration routes used since pre-historic times. Due to the increase in tourism, hydropower and other human activities in mountain areas, fragmentation is rapidly ongoing. Continue reading
World fisheries day, celebrated today aims to draw attention to the poor status of many fished species as a consequence of overfishing, habitat degradation, global warming, and pollution. Clearly, we stand far from the key objective of fisheries management, that is, to regulate fishing such that in the long term harvesting is sustainable. Less political and more science-based management has frequently been called upon as a solution and ‘ecosystem-based fisheries management’ is a term often repeated, but rarely implemented. In fact, a recent study by Skern-Mauritzen et al. (2015) showed that out of 1200 reviewed fisheries, ecosystem-based drivers were only accounted for in 24 cases. Continue reading